In yesterday’s entry I talked about Merton Abbey Mills, and briefly brushed against the subject of the Abbey itself. Today, Seb drew my attention to the following:
This is a BBC report on the hidden ruins of the old Priory. The custodians of the site are hoping to get it World Heritage status. I support this, firstly for the obvious reason that I live near it, but secondly because it’s one of those secret, unknown parts of the city that really deserves to be better known.
As the chap says in the video linked to above, Merton Abbey is hugely significant in English history. In its heyday, it was on a par with Westminster Abbey in terms of importance. It was founded under Henry I, Henry III held court there and mad Henry VI was crowned there. Thomas Becket (not A Becket, that’s a scribe’s error) was educated here. In 1235 the Statute of Merton was drawn up. This, the follow-up to the better-known Magna Carta, formed the basis of modern English law. Helpfully, it also defined a bastard. That guy who drives through a massive puddle, spraying you with mud while you’re waiting for a bus even though he could easily steer around it? Not a bastard, at least in law.
There are plenty of other places vying for World Heritage status. A lot of industry is represented – the Great Western Railway and other railway pioneer places are hoping to win the status, as are Chatham Docks, the Welsh slate industry and the Forth Bridge. A couple of cities are hopeful – Lincoln and York. Blackpool is also in there, though it’s hardly a city. The almost unspeakably beautiful Flow Country in Scotland and Lake District in England are on the list. More recent hopefuls include Jodrell Bank and RAF Upper Heyford. All have a claim, but in the end, there can be only one.
So what does World Heritage Status mean? Well, basically, that it becomes the responsibility of the world to preserve it. In a nutshell. There may be money. And you probably get a nice plaque or something.
London can boast several sites. Kew Gardens, Maritime Greenwich, the Palace of Westminster, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Westminster School and St Margarets Church all have World Heritage Status. Will Merton Abbey be joining them? Well, here’s hoping.
http://www.culture.gov.uk/news/news_stories/7221.aspx – The “Tentative List,” as it is known, of British sites nominated this year.